Researchers from the San Francisco State University have identified specific behaviours that lead to such compulsive buying.
"Compulsive shoppers tend to be people who bury their head in the sand and ignore the credit card bill," said Ryan Howell, associate professor of psychology at SF State.
"We also found that these individuals keep on buying because they are looking for that 'buy high,' hoping their purchases will lift their mood and transform them as a person," said Howell.
"A lot of research has shown that shopaholics tend to have materialistic values. Our results explain why materialistic people shop compulsively," Howell said.
Howell and colleagues surveyed more than 1,600 participants who answered questions about their money management, shopping habits and how much they value material possessions.
The researchers' analysis found that lack of money management predicted individuals' compulsive spending, regardless of their personality, gender, age and income.
In particular, out-of-control-shopping was primarily driven by poor credit management, such as not paying attention to credit card statements, not paying credit card bills on time and exceeding credit limits.
The authors suggest that one possible reason why credit cards may facilitate compulsive shopping is because they allow consumers to separate the pleasure of buying from the pain of paying.
In the study, compulsive shoppers reported that they bought items to get a buzz or put themselves in a better mood. They also believed the purchases could change their life, for example by transforming their appearance, self-confidence, reputation and relationships.
"We know that a person's values impact their shopping habits, but values aren't the easiest thing to change. Even if you are still materialistic and you have the desire to acquire more possessions, it's how you manage your behaviour that counts.
"Our findings suggest that you can keep your shopping under control by paying attention to your credit card and checking in with yourself about whether you are shopping for emotional reasons," said Howell.
The study was published in the Journal of Economic Psychology.


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